Arthur Magazine


This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), which I was editing at the time, with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia. The piece was accompanied by a set of sidebar interviews and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal [who was finishing his work on the manuscript that would be published as Fela: The Life And Times Of An African Musical Icon]. The main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick).

FELA: King of the Invisible Art
by Jay Babcock

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: 77 albums, 27 wives, over 200 court appearances. Harassed, beaten, tortured, jailed. Twice-born father of Afrobeat. Spiritualist. Pan-Africanist. Commune king. Composer, saxophonist, keyboardist, dancer. Would-be candidate for the Nigerian presidency. There will never be another like him. This is the sensational story of…

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“When you ask God for something, and you promise him you won’t do evil afterwards or so and u say so in sincerely knowing you’d still do such do not feel smart and like you’ve played a fast one on him as the other realm, the spirit end is beyond TIME, time and days is man’s creation and he knew you would screw up even before you promise…..when you hide in a room or keep secrets of your evil be warned as he sees all and he is beyond the physical concept of SPACE! The creator is everywhere any does not sleep. There is a reason…you are not so smart.”

Atuchukwu Kamsi O.


“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”. — John F. Kennedy

I am one of the people who believe that this so-called democratic system operating in Nigeria today cannot bring progress for her people. I believe the Nigerian political system is not right as corruption and irresponsibility in public service is a huge wall against our progress. Now, today we seek to achieve greatness and since even putting a righteous man to rise through the ranks to the offices of leadership so long it is this system Nigeria cannot be better as corruption is somewhat institutionalised.

Now, a lot of us seek to achieve this through several means and many particularly the young and energetic are singing songs of revolution and yes I do agree, since this system of “demo-crazy” cannot guarantee good governance why don’t we eliminate it. And we say we have tried all means, we try to vote, we comment on the internet, we talk on the topic at symposiums, we make suggestions, we pray to God, we honestly do our jobs etc. and it seems we are the fools in this whole situation. Revolution seems to be what is left but is it the appropriate option? The necessary step? The sure step?

Revolution seems like a dream, people power, we eliminate the evil elements in government and set up a good, balanced society we are proud of and willing to comfortably leave for our kids. But now, do we know what we want? A revolution is necessary but we need to actually prepare our minds for this if its what is necessary today. We need to realise that a revolution without proper education and unified purposeful plan or dream is vital especially in Nigeria where we have several tribes. We have to understand that it is our houses, property, schools etc. that may be burnt, so we all have to be strong and united. And be ready to build, to sustain and to do what we must do in the future. We must educate each other.

We should educate one another. Make plans. Guarantee our finance. We see the Arab spring where an unorganised externally inspired uprising resulted in nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory. Now the post revolution President Morsi has been ousted and Egypt may go decades behind in progress. We must educate each other and make us ready for our dream in all areas of our post revolution existence.

Education and truth is the key, when we are all enlightened we can see properly the future we wish to enter and do what is necessary.

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today” —Malcolm X

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Atuchukwu Kamsi O.


Many people tend to look at this dream or target of a United States of Africa as out of place, while some indeed see it as too late, our countries(colonial structures) have spent so much time as single entities, some see it as unrealistic owing to the several tribes and languages that exist on the continent and there exist some that see the move as unnecessary and like Tafawa Balewa suggest a loose unity with a good a good working relationship.

Africa has gone through over 400 years of combined suffering, from slave trade and labour(it might interest you to know that every black person on earth is originally African), to about 100 years of colonialism and now over 50 years of bad leadership in most nations of the continent. These factors have led to the loss of cultural concepts and has left most people frowning at the glorious and positive aspects of African culture looking to the West for solutions. It has led to a total breakdown, yes there is westernisation but that is accompanied by exploitation(we must have read of the activities of diamond companies and oil companies along with Apartheid and CIA sponsorship of coups etc) all aimed at keeping Africa dependent and subject to the imperialist nations of Europe and America. And yes they do this because Africa is important, it is the richest continent in terms of resources and with its large human populace too and fair weather if Africa realises its potential, it will automatically rule the world and several techniques have been adopted to achieve this. Through what we call civilisation we have through time been made to believe that progress comes from the West and very little good can originally come from Africa. And we are quick to say philosophy started in Greece, not Egypt and teach it in school and say governance did not exist before the whites came. We forget that medicine,Christianity, Islam all have their roots in Africa. So these factors have made us, who at times are smarter to have this inferiority complex, we see it even amongst some of our leaders. I must quote Malcolm X at this point:

“What makes the so-called negro unable to stand on his own two feet? He has no self-confidence. He has no pride in his own race. Because the white man destroyed your and mine past. Destroyed our knowledge of our culture. And by having destroyed it, now we don’t know if we have any achievements, any accomplishments. And as long as you can be convinced that you have never did anything you will never do anything. This is why the white man, his little children, he tells them about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, all these white heroes. But, we are never taught about any black heroes. The only someone we are shown in history is my grandfather was picking cotton. Cotton picking don’t move me. No! But when it comes to teaching the black people something about great black men who stood their ground, who were scientists, who were civilizers, who were fathers of culture and civilizations, the white man has surely written that role out of the text books And today the effect it has on you and me, we don’t think we can stand on our own two feet.” –Malcolm X

Yes, this is where we still are today and in order to make life better for us we have to act. We have to amend, believe in us and not thinking of aid form outside all the time. We can do it. We can succeed. We may not speak our languages or wear our clothes but our spirit is still African.

Now, you may ask, if Africa is so important, why are we so poor? After all we are independent, why has the richest continent in terms of resources got the poorest people?

Now, we must realise that currency plays a vital role, America has the largest oil reserve but doeasnt have much crude oil originally but trade in oil is done in dollars, we in Nigeria export crude oil and import petroleum products, our resources are bought cheap but we buy things very expensive. African unity is important because the more we are economically divided the more we would be short changed, its a technique called balkanisation where several economically non-viable states exist. And of course since African nations are either modelled as Arab states or European psychologically we are almost at home with our loss. We do not dictate the prices of goods on our land. Economically its important we unite to make this happen, imagine the continent with the largest amount of resources with a single formidable currency, that will be a step. Quoting Kwame Nkrumah:

“A continent like Africa however much it increases its agricultural output will not benefit unless it is sufficiently politically & economically united to force the developed world to pay it a fair price for its cash crops…so long Africa remains divided it will therefore be the wealthy consumer countries that will dictate the prices of African cash crops” -KWAME NKRUMAH, 1965

Politically too, we have seen at times how we have betrayed each other in times of conflict, we have also seen how we have been insulted by the West when we make policies for us. For example Britain’s threat to withdraw aid from Nigeria if gay laws are passed. I don’t support the laws but that is disrespect for sovereignty. It is a crazy today in Africa. We can’t even fight our battles yet we claim independence.

And yes, Pan-Africanism is not aimed at racism, neglecting or rejecting the positive of the West but justice as we know there is no peace without justice. The United Nations for example shows how Africa is placed in world politics, world politics should be equitable.

We must realise that we should not tow the path of self pity by begging the imperialists for liberation, we know that Obama took an oath to protect and serve Americans, and not us for example, if Africa will progress its on us to unite, build our industry, be truthful, purposeful and do away with our fake leaders, we must think positive and act! Our tribes differ but we are united by the blood shed of our ancestors! Common suffering! We must look at the example set by the Viet Cong who fought in unity beyond tribal differences! Study! Teach! I conclude with a quote by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti:

“…all of the African leaders look up to Europe for progress, you cannot know the white man’s thing better than the white man, so therefore you cannot intend to progress at the same level with the white man. You see Africa has not been able to contribute its own knowledge to this universe but there is knowledge in Africa”

Atuchukwu Kamsi O.

Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab: The Hero In The Villain.

I have observed with keen interest the reaction of my age group and perhaps, people of my generation to the attempted bombing of a Detroit bound flight by Abdul Mutallab, barely three days after his 23rd birthday. The average Nigerian youth is disgusted by his actions, most are particularly disgusted at the fact that a kid from a rich home would waste his life for a reason most of them describe as ‘stupid’. Some say he has worsened Nigeria’s foreign image. I do not wish to defend Abdul but in my usual manner I just wish to tell the truth as thought by my mind. Abdul’s actions were based on religious philosophy and in loyalty to that which he thinks is right. He showed that there is more to life than money. Religious, philosophical and ideological loyalty is something lacking in the world today, a world where money is the only thing that truely inspires people. Check it out, from marriages to education, friendships to projects, we do all with the hope of having a better life through wealth. I know someone or something has to be blamed and I think it’s the institution put in place that inspired the engineering student to attempt the bombing. He is a victim of an already existing problem. We, the Nigerian youths are not any different from Abdul, the only difference is that we are cheaper and more desperate. The Anambra state elections are around the corner, just check out what our students and youths would be used for. I’m not saying we should go bombing planes with innocent people in them but I think we should be ready to go any length for our thoughts. Perhaps, if my dad’s generation had such philosophies we would not even care about going to the U.S. because Nigeria would be a better place. My aim is to let every one reading this have the Mutallab spirit, but we should have it directed to a just and revolutionary cause. Back to laying blames, I think the Muslim world’s actions are just a reaction to America’s enforced ‘big brother’ role. America should respect the sovereignty of other states. Al-quaeda etc. are in reaction to the threat to freedom they see the U.S. to be. The problem is the U.S. Perhaps if the U.S. respected other nations, the Arabs would not be on the offensive, al-quaeda would not exist, Mutallab would not be in the news, and this note would never have been written. Thanks.

Atuchukwu Kamsi O.
16 January 2010